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Pacific Islands Forum warns Japan: Don't dump nuclear waste in Pacific

Greenpeace claims Japan is ignoring human rights and maritime law.
compiled by Samoa News staff

 In response to Japan’s announcement that it would begin dumping nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is appealing to Japan to hold off from discharging nuclear waste from the Fukushima power plant that was destroyed by a tsunami in 2011.

Japan announced this past week that it would release contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Work to release the diluted water will begin in two years and the process is expected to take decades, according to sources familiar with the project.

Outgoing P.I.F. Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor issued a statement on Tuesday calling for a halt to the decision:

"In my capacity as Depositary of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), as Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and on behalf of the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific: we note, with deep concern, the decision by the Government of Japan to discharge the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) Treated Water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean, and wish to highlight and reiterate the position of the Pacific Islands Forum region in relation to this matter," she said in a statement.

"For decades, Forum Leaders have expressed strong concern regarding nuclear legacy issues. At their last meeting in 2019, Leaders expressed concern for the significance of the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, her people and prospects.

"They acknowledged the importance of addressing the long-standing issues of nuclear testing legacy in the Pacific, and called for the operationalization of the provisions of the Treaty of Rarotonga."

She explained in the statement that the Treaty of Rarotonga is determined to keep the region free of environmental pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter.

"We are of the view that steps have not been sufficiently taken to address the potential harm to our Blue Pacific Continent, including possible environmental, health, and economic impacts.

"Our fisheries and oceans resources are critical to our Pacific livelihoods and must be protected."

According to Dame Meg, it is required under international law and as highlighted by the States Parties in December 2020, Japan should take all appropriate measures within its territory, jurisdiction, or control to prevent significant transboundary harm to the territories of the Pacific.

"These obligations are reiterated under the 1986 Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (Noumea Convention) and related Protocols, the 1995 Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (Waigani Convention)," she said.

"We therefore urgently call on the Government of Japan to hold off the conduct of the discharge of the A.L.P.S Treated Water until further consultations are undertaken with Pacific Island Forum Members and an independent expert review is undertaken to the satisfaction of all our Members."

Over three year ago, the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the utility needed to stop dragging its feet on plans to dump massive amounts of treated but contaminated water into the sea and to make more money if it’s ever going to succeed in cleaning up the mess left by meltdowns over 10 years ago at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant.

This week Greenpeace released a statement claiming the Japanese govt’s decision to discharge Fukushima’s contaminated water ignores human rights and international maritime law.

Greenpeace Japan strongly condemns the decision of the of Prime Minister Suga’s cabinet to dispose of over 1.23 million tons of radioactive waste water stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean. This completely disregards the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, wider Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Greenpeace Japan’s polling has shown that the majority of residents in Fukushima and the wider Japan are opposed to discharging this radioactive wastewater into the Pacific. Additionally, the nationwide federation of Japan Fisheries Cooperatives has continued to express its complete opposition to ocean discharges.

United Nations’ human rights special reporters warned the Japanese government in June 2020 and again in March 2021 that discharging the water into the environment breaches the rights of Japanese citizens and its neighbors including Korea. They called on the Japanese government to delay any decision on discharging the contaminated water into the sea until the crisis of COVID-19 is over and appropriate international consultations are held.

Since 2012, Greenpeace has proactively campaigned against plans to discharge Fukushima contaminated water – submitting technical analysis to UN agencies, holding seminars with local residents of Fukushima with other NGOs, and petitioning against the discharges and submitted to relevant Japanese government bodies. 

Furthermore, a recent Greenpeace Japan report detailed alternatives to the current flawed decommissioning plans for Fukushima Daiichi, including options to stop the continued increase of contaminated water. Greenpeace will continue to lead the campaign to stop radioactive waste water from being discharged into the Pacific, the environmental activist group pledged.